Thursday, 3 March 2011
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Portland Aluminium, located in my electorate of Wannon, directly employs 600 people. Across the country there are 60,000 jobs dependent on the aluminium industry. Will the Prime Minister guarantee that there will be no job losses in the aluminium industry as a result of the carbon tax?
I thank the member for this question. Of course I am aware of the aluminium industry in Victoria, which he refers to. I am sure that he would freely acknowledge that it is there in Victoria because of the work of Labor Premier John Cain. His administration ensured that regional Victoria had the benefit of those jobs. I am sure the member acknowledges to his constituency every day the leading role of former Labor Premier John Cain!
What I would say to the member who has asked the question is that I am all about Australian jobs. That requires us not to freeze our economy in time, not to look to the past, but to build for the future. I say to the member who has asked me the question: presumably he could have got up in this parliament many long years ago, if he had been here under the Hawke government, and he could have asked a similarly phrased question about an industry that was having its tariffs reduced. He could have asked the Prime Minister then, ‘Will you guarantee no job losses?’
What is the history of tariff reform, economic reform, floating the dollar, and trade liberalisation in this country? All of these reforms have built our modern economy. The legacy of those reforms is the prosperous economy we have today. If we had said, in the 1970s, 1980s or even the 1990s that we were going to freeze our economy in time we would be poorer today than we are now.
Opposition members interjecting—
What I was saying to the member is that during any of the waves of economic reform and transformation of our economy there are people who raise fears about job losses but economic reform and economic transformation, on every occasion, have left us stronger and more prosperous than we were before, and far stronger and far more prosperous than we would have been had we tried to freeze our economy in time.
The future will be owned by those nations who are able to be nimble and adapt to a low-carbon future. I am for this nation being nimble and adapting to a low-carbon future. The course of freezing our economy in time is actually a course towards a poorer nation. It is a course towards fewer job opportunities for the constituents that the member represents in this place.
If the member does not want to trust me on these propositions then he should turn to former Prime Minister John Howard, who was honest enough to say to the Australian people that we needed to transform our economy through an emissions trading scheme. I am being as honest as he was with the Australian people. We need to transform our economy. We need to price carbon. Former Prime Minister John Howard went to the 2007 election promising that, and the commitments I have made in this place and to the Australian nation are comparable commitments. We must price carbon. We must transform our economy. We must embrace the challenges of the future, not try and run away. So, do not be led down that path by the Leader of the Opposition. Play a role in shaping the future; work with the government to price carbon.